Beating the Odds if Disease Runs in the Family

By: Bel Marra Health | General Health | Monday, July 02, 2012 - 12:07 AM

 preventativeThere are numerous diseases that can run in your family. When a disease runs in the family it essentially means that more than one person in the family has the same condition. While this can be caused by gene mutations, in some cases ailments can take place in families due to environmental factors. The good news; if a disease runs in your family it doesn’t mean you have to fall victim to it.

Preventive Steps

Taking preventative steps can help you avoid the problems that your relatives have experienced. This includes good nutrition, regular exercise, and smart choices in your day to day living. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best preventative approach is to get to know your family history.

There could be features in your family history that are unusual or that have not been openly discussed. Some examples are listed below.

•    Disease that normally doesn’t impact a certain gender (breast cancer in a male family member)

•    Ailments that take place at an early age (10 or 20 years before most people suffer from a heart attack)

•    Combinations of diseases (breast and ovarian cancer)

While it isn’t always a pleasant subject to go over, exploring the family medical history can help put your mind at ease. You will know that you have put all the preventative measures in place; you will know that you have done everything you can to protect yourself from disease.

Here is what you can do to learn more about your family medical history:

•  Talk to relatives

•  If possible look at death certificates

•  If possible look at medical records

•  Find out the age of disease onset and age of death for family members

•   Share all information with your doctor

While it is true that you can’t change your genetic make-up, doctors and nutritionists argue that you can change your lifestyle to ward off diseases. Getting proper sleep and the right vitamins and minerals is essential. If you are struggling with your diet, don’t be afraid to ask for help. A certified nutritionist or dietician can guide you when it comes to what vitamins and minerals you might be lacking. You can avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption. Another smart preventative step would be to get cancer screening tests that detect problems at an early stage when they are more treatable. Screening tests can also test for high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

While the most common preventative path is maintaining a healthy lifestyle, some people do opt for genetic testing. This involves testing your DNA to determine if your genes may cause any kind of illness. Often times people turn to genetic testing when they start to show symptoms of a disease that runs in the family. Some young couples, who are planning to have a family, but have a history of a genetic disorder, will have the testing done to see if they carry a copy of the altered gene that would put a child at risk of getting the same disorder.

Very few people can say that there are not at least one or two medical issues in their family tree. Finding out the health problem in your family is the first step and then it is up you to implement a good preventative plan.


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